One parable that comes up many times when you talk about forgiveness is the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This parable demonstrates how we should forgive others no matter how big their sin is. But to understand this parable best, we have to understand to whom Jesus was teaching, why Jesus was teaching this parable, and what happened before Jesus started telling the parable.
Before Jesus taught the parable, Peter asks in Matthew 18:21 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” To him, it probably felt like he was doing more than he needed to by forgiving others that many times. But Jesus responded that you should forgive others up to seventy times seven times.
After saying this, Jesus goes into the teaching of the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The parable starts by telling how the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. One of the slaves who had been brought to the king owed him ten thousand talents, which was equal to 20 years of work. Since the slave could not pay back the money, the king ordered for the slave, his family, and everything he owned to be sold. The slave pleaded with the king and asked for time to repay everything back to the king. The king then cancelled the slave’s dept in mercy towards him.
Just like the slave, we are in the debt of God. The ten thousand talents which the slave could not repay back is like our sins. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our response to God is to ask for the forgiveness of our sins, just like what the slave did. Through mercy, God grants us that forgiveness and cancels our sins.
We are like the slave in the beginning of the parable, but we do not want to be like the slave at the end of the parable. After leaving the king’s presence, the slave finds a fellow slave who owes him a hundred denarii, and demands to be repaid. One denarius was worth one day’s wage. The fellow slave pleaded with the slave, asking for time to repay his debt. The slave, however, did not show mercy to his fellow slave and had him thrown in jail. Other slaves who were watching this unfold, went and reported to the king what they had just seen. When the king found out what had happened, he was very angry for he had shown mercy to the slave, but the slave would not show that same mercy to others. Because the slave had thrown his fellow slave in jail for owing a debt, the king threw the slave in jail for owing him debt.
This parable concludes with Jesus explaining how if we do not forgive others, God will treat us the same way. We have been shown mercy by God, deserving to be punished but instead were forgiven. In the same way, we need to show mercy and forgiveness to others who sin against us. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We want that forgiveness from God, and to receive it we must forgive others who sin against us. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Saying that we forgive somebody, but not truly forgiving them in your heart, is not real forgiveness. The forgiveness towards others must come from our hearts to count. Matthew 18:35 states, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” In every version that I have looked at, it explicitly states that it must be from your heart.
When forgiveness comes from our hearts, we are forgiving others with no pride or desire for revenge. If we have pride or a desire for revenge, there is no true repentance or forgiveness. The slave in the parable did not have true repentance and forgiveness, which caused him to not forgive others. He had not truly repented, but was glad just to be “off the hook.”
As Ephesians 4:32 says, we need to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving towards others, just as God has forgiven us.
Kaitlyn, a middle school student from Michigan, has made the most of a wild and crazy 2020 and she is already working on her third time reading through the whole Bible this year. Way to go! Thanks for sharing with us today!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 18
Tomorrow’s reading will be John 7-8 as we continue on our journey through the Bible. Print your copy of our Bible Reading Plan and hop onboard! Kaitlyn will tell you there is something new to discover every time you read His Word!